Written By: Brianna Brownfield, LAc (Zenergy Acupuncturist/Herbalist)
If you were to travel the world to look for cultures who have a strong grasp on good health and longevity, people who are relatively free from the crippling effects of degenerative disease, I am sure you would be pleasantly surprised while visiting the South Pacific and studying those who have maintained their traditional native diet and steered clear of Western influence. These people are robust and healthy. Chronic degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and arthritis are almost non-existent. So what is being eaten to keep them disease free? The most universally eaten food among the Polynesian and Asian communities in the Pacific is the fruit of the coconut tree. Coconuts have been a staple part of their native diet for centuries. Coconuts are used as food, flavoring, beverages, skin care, and the oil is also used for cooking purposes. Coconut oil has a highly respected reputation in many cultures throughout the world not only as a valuable food, but as beneficial medicine. Among the Pacific Islanders, coconut oil is considered to be “the cure for all illnesses”. In sanskrit, the coconut palm is known as ‘kalpa virksha’, meaning “the tree that supplies all that is needed to live”.
The coconut is a natural water purifier. It takes nearly nine months for each liter of water to be filtered through the fibrous husk and absorbed into the sterile shell. This clear coconut water is one of the highest sources of electrolytes found in nature. Amazingly enough, young coconut water is nearly identical to human blood plasma, making it a universal donor. In fact, during the Pacific battles of WW2, both sides in the conflict regularly used coconut water that was siphoned directly from the nut to give emergency plasma transfusions to wounded soldiers! Coconut water is sterile, cool, easily absorbed by the body, matching in pH level and electrolyte balance to human blood plasma, and does not kill red blood cells. When mixed with blood plasma the coconut water acts as a saline solution for quick rehydration. Young coconut water is also an excellent nutrition source for infants and children because it contains organic compounds that stimulate general physical growth and muscle formation. The coco water is an overall excellent tonic for all ages.
Coconuts have the most health benefits in their young stage of growth. The ‘meat’ of the coconut consists primarily of pure raw saturated fats that the body can metabolize efficiently and convert to energy quickly. It has the ability to revitalize oxidative tissue damage caused from age, improve functioning of the nervous system, increase breast-milk production, and restore sperm production in males. They also improve digestion of fat-soluble vitamins, amino acids, calcium, magnesium and help the immune system by containing fatty acids that have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties. It contains the most lauric acid of any plant (a strong antiviral substance). They can lessen the symptoms of hypoglycemia by improving the utilization of blood sugar. Not to mention the coconut meat tastes delicious!
Coconut oil is a saturated fat. But do not be afraid! Unlike long- chained saturated fats that have been attributed to poor health, the oil is a medium-chained fatty acid with numerous health benefits. Medium-chained fatty acids support the immune system, the thyroid gland, the skin, support healthy hormone production, increase metabolism, and supply efficient and fast energy for your body. Coconut oil contains very low levels of cholesterol and actually supports the health of your heart. In a study published in Clinical Biochemistry, 2004, researchers looked at coconut oil as a component of diet in laboratory animals.
“In this study, virgin coconut oil, which was obtained by wet process, had abeneficial effect in lowering total cholesterol, triglycerides, phospholipidsand low density lipoproteins (LDL). The effects were uniformly beneficial. In serum and tissues, very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol levels werelowered and HDL-cholesterol was increased. The polyphenolfraction of virgin coconut oil was also found to prevent in vitro LDL-oxidation. We know thatoxidized cholesterol can initiate the process ofatherosclerosis—the fatty acids in coconut oil prevent this oxidation. The results in this study were interpretedas due to the biologically active polyphenol components present in the oil.”
In Chinese Medicine terms coconut can be viewed as warming in nature with a sweet flavor. It benefits both the interior and exterior (blood and wei qi). It raises the yang energy while also enriching yin fluids, especially blood. Coconut water is both a blood purifier and tonic. It is strengthening and benefits the Heart. According to Paul Pitchford, coconut is also effective in clearing the effects of summer heat.
The most common side effect is diarrhea. So for those suffering from chronic loose bowels, coconut should be used with caution and in smaller doses. For maintenance and preventative health a daily dose of one to three cups of young coconut water should be beneficial. Biggest caution to use with coconuts is while standing under the tree. An average of 150 people a year die world wide from falling coconuts! Besides the dangers of coconuts falling from the sky, they are extremely safe and beneficial for everyone of all ages!